Muthambi un­der fire for SABC power grab

CityPress - - News - AN­DISIWE MAK­I­NANA an­disiwe.mak­i­nana@city­press.co.za

A se­nior SABC ex­ec­u­tive is chal­leng­ing the pub­lic broad­caster’s new gov­er­nance regime in­tro­duced by Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi, ar­gu­ing that it is un­law­ful and is used to vic­timise un­pop­u­lar SABC em­ploy­ees.

In a highly tech­ni­cal case in the Western Cape High Court, the SABC’s sus­pended head of tech­nol­ogy, Sipho Masinga, ac­cuses Muthambi and the SABC’s chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer, Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng, of abus­ing their power and vic­tim­is­ing em­ploy­ees who are not sym­pa­thetic or loyal to Mot­soe­neng.

Masinga claims that the amend­ments brought about by Muthambi to the SABC’s mem­o­ran­dum of in­cor­po­ra­tion and the man­ner in which the amend­ments were made were un­law­ful.

The case is the lat­est in the many le­gal wran­gles be­dev­illing the SABC.

This week it was told by the Western Cape High Court that Mot­soe­neng’s ap­point­ment was il­le­gal and that it should be set aside.

The SABC and Muthambi have said they would ap­peal this judg­ment.

The SABC an­nounced in Novem­ber 2014 that it had sus­pended Masinga on full pay, but re­fused to di­vulge the rea­sons for his sus­pen­sion.

At the time, SABC in­sid­ers claimed Masinga was sus­pended af­ter he had writ­ten a damn­ing re­port say­ing that the broad­caster’s in­fra­struc­ture was so bro­ken and out­dated it could not keep its own TV chan­nels on the air.

In court pa­pers, Masinga ac­cuses Muthambi of amend­ing the ar­ti­cles of as­so­ci­a­tion of the SABC and sub­sti­tut­ing them with an amended mem­o­ran­dum of in­cor­po­ra­tion.

He al­leges that Muthambi acted un­law­fully in amend­ing the mem­o­ran­dum and that Mot­soe­neng, act­ing in terms of the amended mem­o­ran­dum, pro­ceeded to is­sue a no­tice to dis­ci­pline him for a num­ber of al­leged acts of mis­con­duct.

Masinga wants the high court to de­ter­mine if Muthambi had acted law­fully in au­tho­ris­ing Mot­soe­neng to take a de­ci­sion to dis­ci­pline him.

Masinga said the amended mem­o­ran­dum was in­valid on the ba­sis that Muthambi did not adopt it at a gen­eral meet­ing to pass a res­o­lu­tion amend­ing the mem­o­ran­dum. In­stead, she uni­lat­er­ally adopted a spe­cial res­o­lu­tion out­side of a meet­ing with the SABC board.

“Fur­ther, the min­is­ter did not rat­ify this res­o­lu­tion with mem­bers of the Cabi­net,” he claims.

Masinga also claims that Muthambi’s amended mem­o­ran­dum granted the group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and the chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer dis­ci­plinary pow­ers over em­ploy­ees.

He ar­gued that this was in con­flict with sec­tion 14 of the Broad­cast­ing Act, which grants pow­ers of dis­ci­pline to the SABC board.

Masinga claims that the fact that the SABC board “re­fuses to take a res­o­lu­tion that I be dis­ci­plined is in­dica­tive of the fact that there is no such proper res­o­lu­tion”.

“Why this is not done begs the ques­tion. It demon­strates, I sub­mit, that there is no proper au­thor­ity to dis­ci­pline me,” said Masinga.

On Thurs­day, Ad­vo­cate Nazeer Cas­sim, on be­half of Masinga, told the Western Cape High Court that Mot­soe­neng was the per­son who was “ac­tu­ally ex­er­cis­ing the au­thor­ity to dis­ci­pline Masinga” and had no au­thor­ity to do so.

Muthambi’s lawyers ar­gued that ev­ery­thing was above board. The court re­served judg­ment.

Faith Muthambi

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